Dorothy Online Newsletter


Dear Friends,

Well, surprise surprise.  Yesterday’s message got through.  Perhaps this one will too.  Let’s hope. Of course there are worse things than not receiving a message.  Several of the items below reveal that.

There are 9 items tonight/today (depending on where you are).

Items 1 and 2 are about Gaza.  1 informs us that a father and 12 year old daughter were injured in an IAF air strike.  Let’s hope that they survive.  Item 2 is a photo essay showing, in photos and words the aftermath of a bombed home.

Item 3 relates that Hamass accuses Israel of planning for war (against Gaza) and item 4 argues that rather than celebrating Human Rights Day, in Israel it should be seen “as a memorial of human rights,” because for Palestinians HR do not exist.

Item 5 is another report on Tristan Anderson who was injured by a Tear Gas Canister shot at him, and which hit him in his eye, much the same as the case with the Palestinian demonstrator who was killed this week.  Tristan survived, but not in the condition that he was prior to his injury.

Item 6 informs us that Israel’s cabinet has okayed a plan “to stanch flow of illegal African migrants”—which is the policy used against the Jews, too, by other countries during WWII,

In item 7, Mahair al-Abid and Daqaiqeh, David Shulman paints a picture of the suffering that infests the life of the inhabitants of the latter village and of Mahair Al-Abid and family.  For what?

Item 8, Today in Palestine, seems to me today to contain a larger number of painful events than usual—or perhaps that’s my imagination.  The final section is mostly pleasant, or at least not harmful.

Item 9 does not specifically deal with Palestine or Israel.  It is about arms, and since Israel uses lots of these, I felt that the paper is relevant to our area of the world.  This paper is the first of 3 papers on “The negative impact of arms manufacture” The author in this paper calls for a closer look at “arms and corporate social responsibility.”

That’s it for now.



  1. Palestine News & Information Agency – WAFA. Date : 11/12/2011

Israeli Airstrike Injures Father, Daughter in Gaza

GAZA, December 11, 2011 (WAFA) – A Palestinian child was severely wounded and her father was injured in an Israeli airstrike that targeted a house in Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza city at dawn Sunday, according to a WAFA correspondent.

Israeli warplanes targeted a house with three missiles, destroying parts of the house and setting it on fire, as well as damaging neighboring houses.

The father was reported to be in moderate condition.

Israeli artillery also shelled an agricultural area in Johr al-Deek, southeast of Gaza city. No injuries were reported.


2. The aftermath of a bombed home in Gaza

3, Independent Saturday, 10 December 2011

Hamas accuses Israel of planning for war after air strikes kill three

Catrina Stewart

Hamas has accused Israel of an “unjustified escalation” against Gaza after a series of air strikes in the past two days left three Palestinians dead.

The rising tensions come at a delicate time in the region, with French peacekeepers injured in a roadside bomb yesterday in southern Lebanon, the third attack on UN peacekeepers there this year. In Egypt, Islamists sympathetic to Hamas, which rules Gaza, have gained ground in preliminary election results, prompting concern in Israel. Egypt condemned the Israeli strikes on Gaza, and said it was engaged in urgent mediation to prevent an escalation in the Palestinian territory.

Palestinians have reacted with fury to Israeli air strikes that killed a 42-year-old man in his home. Twenty-five people were injured in the attack on a Hamas training ground, Palestinian medics said. Israel expressed its regret, but blamed Hamas for choosing “to operate while embedded within a civilian population, using them as a human shield to protect their actions”.

A day earlier, an Israeli strike killed two Palestinians in a car in Gaza City, wounding six bystanders. One of the men was named as Essam al-Batsh, the alleged mastermind of a suicide bombing in Eilat in 2007 that killed three Israelis. The men were accused of planning to infiltrate Israel from Egypt to mount attacks. Palestinian militants responded by firing rockets at Israel, but all fell wide of any target.

The escalation brings to an end weeks of relative calm. Hamas, which is committed to armed resistance against Israel, has largely observed a ceasefire since the offensive on Gaza in 2008-2009 that left up to 1,400 Palestinians dead, but Israel holds it responsible for any rockets fired by splinter groups.

Benny Gantz, Israel’s army chief of staff, said last month that a new conflict with Gaza was “drawing closer” because of increased rocket attacks, prompting speculation that Israel might mount an offensive before a government sympathetic to Hamas comes to power in Egypt. The Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, accused Israel of an “unjustified escalation against Gaza” and called on Egypt to intervene. He said the Israeli strikes were designed “to test the response of the Arab world… to a future war against Gaza and against the Palestinians in general”.

4. Haaretz

December 11, 2011

A day of memorial for Palestinian human rights

What we are witnessing is Palestinians being exposed to violence from the army and settlers, and in both cases the majority of the investigations are not carried out as they should be.

By Aeyal Gross

Tags: Palestinians West Bank IDF Israel occupation Bil’in

As they marked Human Rights Day in Tel Aviv on the same weekend that a demonstrator from the village of Nabi Saleh died, it would be best to commemorate this day in Israel as a memorial of human rights.

Even if an investigation into the circumstances of Mustafa Tamimi’s death is required, it is impossible to ignore the photographs which show that he was shot in the head at close range. Tamimi is part of a growing list of Palestinians, more than 20, who were killed by the IDF during demonstrations in the territories, and where no one is called to answer for these deaths.

A Haaretz probe revealed the shortcomings of police conduct in the Judea and Samaria District, exposing the fact that there are no serious investigations taking place when violence is directed against Palestinians.

What we are witnessing is Palestinians being exposed to violence from the army and settlers, and in both cases the majority of the investigations are not carried out as they should be.

The combination of military violence with “private” violence suggests that the Palestinian civilians are being abandoned to violence, directed in many cases against those protesting against the stripping of their land and water resources.

In the case of the killing of the young girl Abir Aramin (hit by a rubber bullet in 2007), the Supreme Court ruled that the handling of the case was flawed and there had not been a proper investigation. However, its conclusions were left as a declaration, which is too little, too late. The case of Aramin, like the case of the killing of the demonstrator Bassem Abu Rahme – for which no one has yet been brought to trial – should serve as a warning. Last April, the military attorney general’s office promised the Supreme Court that, henceforth, every case in which a civilian is killed in an IDF operation in the West Bank would immediately be investigated by the Military Police.

Prior to this declared commitment, an investigation only took place if a death occurred during an IDF combat operation. It is therefore necessary to carry out an immediate and thorough investigation which will be different from the negligence that we have seen to date.

Responsibility for the lives of civilians in occupied territories lies, according to international law, in the hands of the occupying state. Moreover, though Israel does not relate to the Palestinians in the territories as its citizens, it also fails to grant them the protection that it is obligated to give occupied civilians.

This story is by: Aeyal Gross

The author is a professor in the faculty of law at Tel Aviv University.

5. LA Times

December 11, 2011

Legal effort over injured American seeks compensation of Israel

Tristan Anderson of Oakland visited Israel and the West Bank in 2009 with his girlfriend to see the Mideast conflict. At a pro-Palestinian rally he was hurt by a border guard’s tear-gas canister.,0,5969565.story

By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Jerusalem

Tristan Anderson visited Israel and the West Bank in 2009 with his girlfriend, a Jewish American activist, to participate in pro-Palestinian demonstrations and see the Mideast conflict firsthand.

The Oakland man left with brain damage, partial paralysis and blindness in one eye after being hit in the head with a high-velocity tear-gas canister during a protest against Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank village of Nilin.

Now Anderson, 40, and his parents are pressing the Israeli government to pay for his rehabilitation and 24-hour care in a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit.

Anderson’s girlfriend, Gabrielle Silverman, who was with him when he was injured, returned to Israel last month to act as a family representative during the first phase of the trial because he is not well enough to travel. Anderson uses a wheelchair and suffers from impaired judgment.

The trial, which was set to begin Nov. 17, has been indefinitely postponed.

“Tristan is going to need care for the rest of his life and we need to make sure his needs are met,” said Silverman, 28, a healthcare worker also from Oakland.

“We need them to take responsibility for this,” she said. “We want answers and justice. This is our only opportunity to put these people on the witness stand.”

The family says an Israeli border guard intentionally aimed a metal tear-gas canister at Anderson during one of the weekly protests that take place in Nilin and other West Bank villages. The demonstrations usually end in clashes between rock-throwing Palestinians and Israeli security forces, who fire tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons.

An Israeli investigation of the incident concluded last year that there was no criminal intent by the border guard, and no charges were filed.

“There was no finding that anyone intentionally tried to hurt Mr. Anderson, only to shoot the tear gas to disperse the people,” Israeli Justice Ministry spokesman Ron Roman said. But at the family’s request, the ministry agreed to review its decision.

Israeli officials have refused to apologize or pay damages because they say Anderson put himself in danger by refusing to leave the area, which Israeli forces had declared a closed military zone.

“The riots are illegal,” said Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovitz. “We don’t have a problem with people holding signs or yelling their beliefs. But 95% of the time, we see people trying to take down the fence, throwing Molotov cocktails and hurling rocks.”

Silverman said the March 2009 protest that she and Anderson attended was winding down and most of the participants had gone home. Anderson was taking photographs and talking with a small group of people when Israeli forces fired tear gas at them, she said. After Anderson was severely injured, Silverman said, Israeli forces delayed his ambulance at a checkpoint.

After spending months in an Israeli hospital, he was well enough to return to California last year.

Anderson remembers little about the trip or the incident, one of many gaps in his memory. He recognizes his friends and family and regained his ability to speak with his former vocabulary, Silverman said. But his problems include often being unable to control his impulses and emotions.

“He functions like a child,” said Israeli attorney Leah Tsemel, who is representing the Andersons. “He won’t marry or be a father or have a future. Nothing they pay will ever cover the expenses for the physical and mental damage.”

The Anderson family has not specified how much they are seeking in compensation. Tristan Anderson worked installing trade-show booths in Oakland before being injured.

Tsemel recently won a $430,000 judgment against Israel on behalf of the family of a Palestinian girl, Abir Aramin, who was killed in 2007 by a rubber bullet fired by an Israeli border guard during an East Jerusalem clash.

Leaders of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that the type of tear-gas canister that struck Anderson was particularly dangerous and was phased out by the Israeli military after injuries and fatalities ocurred, including the 2009 death of Palestinian activist Bassam Abu Rahme, who was struck in the chest by the same kind of projectile.

“We think the army stopped using these canisters because it became clear to the military operational echelon that their use is a problem and dangerous,” said B’Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli.

She said the high-velocity metal canisters, manufactured in the United States, were more lethal than aluminum or rubber canisters, and were designed to be used at long distance and to break through windows and drywall, not for close situations.

Michaeli said her group has collected data on many cases of Israeli security forces firing tear-gas canisters directly at protesters, even though the practice violates military policy.

“There’s a lack of accountability because it’s extremely rare that the authorities ever do anything to stop it when it happens,” she said.

This spring, New York student Emily Henochowicz, 21, who was visiting Israel as an exchange student, lost an eye when she was struck with a different type of tear-gas canister during a demonstration against Israel’s May 2010 takeover of a pro-Palestinian flotilla, including the Mavi Marmara vessel.

Military officials would not comment on whether they had changed their use of tear-gas canisters, citing the pending lawsuit. But they denied intentionally targeting civilian protesters and said the military tries to use nonlethal means to disperse demonstrations.

[email protected]

6. Washington Post

December 11, 2011

Israeli Cabinet OKs plan to stanch flow of illegal African migrants

By Associated Press, JERUSALEM — The Israeli Cabinet voted unanimously Sunday to finance a $160 million program to stanch the flow of illegal African migrants by stepping up construction of a border fence and expanding a detention center to hold thousands of new arrivals.

Some 50,000 Africans, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, have illegally entered southern Israel since 2006 through the porous border with Egypt’s Sinai desert, according to government estimates.

The influx has sparked a national debate. Some Israelis fear the mounting non-Jewish arrivals will compromise the state’s Jewish character. Critics also claim the migrants are an economic and social burden. But others don’t want their country, which grew out of the Nazi genocide of Jews, to turn away people escaping persecution or conflict.

Addressing the Cabinet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the swelling stream of migrants is “a national scourge.” Netanyahu, like other officials, said the overwhelming majority of infiltrators are not refugees escaping persecution, but instead have come to Israel seeking better economic opportunities.

“If we don’t take action to stanch this illegal flow, then we will simply be inundated,” he said. He said he would explore the possibility of repatriating some of the economic migrants when he visits Africa next year. Israel already has repatriated hundreds of Africans.

Migrant advocates contend the Africans are bona fide refugees and should be granted asylum. They accuse the government of ignoring the retribution most of the migrants face should they return home.

“Across the world, 88 percent of Eritrean migrants who seek asylum are recognized as refugees,” said Reut Michaeli, an attorney for The Hotline for Migrant Workers. “I find it very difficult to believe that the ones who come to Israel are any different.”

But Israeli officials believe the overwhelming majority have come in search of work. They said the purpose of the government plan is to make it as difficult as possible for them to work.

The centerpiece of the plan involves expedited completion of a border fence with Egypt that is also meant to keep out militants. In August, militants crossed the border and killed eight Israelis. The fence, which is to stretch the entire length of the roughly 150 mile (250-kilometer) border, is to be complete by October.

Israel also plans to build a detention center that could house thousands of migrants and expand a prison that is currently housing some of the Africans. Legislation is planned to lengthen detention times, from 60 days to a maximum of three years. And employers who hire illegal migrants will face stiffened fines as much as $18,000.

Elements of the plan were approved last year but funding for the overall program was not authorized until Sunday.

The Africans began trickling into Israel after neighboring Egypt violently quashed a demonstration by a group of Sudanese refugees in 2005, killing at least 20. The number of migrants surged as word spread of safety and job opportunities in the relatively prosperous Jewish state.

They have congregated in several cities, but a lack of a coherent government policy has led to the creation of slums and frictions with locals who claim the migrants have brought crime and harassment of women.

Officials hope the border fence with Egypt will keep most migrants out. The detention center is meant to let Israel round up migrants without running afoul of international law, which requires governments to feed and shelter migrants — or let them work — while their status is being processed.

7.  December 3, 2011  Maghair al-‘Abid and Daqaiqeh

            Let me introduce you to Shehade Mahamra Salama in his dusty blue winter coat, with his white beard, joyful eyes, face burned wine-red by the sun. He lives in the tiny encampment of Maghair al-‘Abid on one of the eastern ridges overlooking the desert. There are four or five families here, some twenty caves. The lands they own are scattered in a wide arc over the parched hills—some of them, unfortunately, like the plot they’re plowing today, in the shadow of Chavat Maon, perhaps the most notorious and merciless of the Israeli outposts in south Hebron.

            It wasn’t so easy to find Shehade, a lone Palestinian man in the vast open spaces of the desert. Ezra dropped us off near Mufagara and we walked, six of us, along the rough goat-paths, skirting Chavat Maon, up and down the hills, scanning the horizon all the time for some sign of him or of the tractor that we knew was supposed to materialize for the plowing. A man cuts an almost imperceptible figure in a wilderness. But we found him, and the tractor drove up over the rocks from the even tinier encampment at Swaiy, and now they’re furrowing the resistant dry earth in the wadi and sowing the seeds. They own this land, no question about that, the courts have confirmed it, but there’s always the likelihood that the settlers will turn up. Repeatedly—four times, to be precise—the Chavat Maon settlers actually stole this field entirely, and each time the court eventually returned it to Shehade’s family. He’s nothing if not persistent. Once when the wheat had grown tall, the settlers came out and burned it; but it rained that night, and somehow the burnt wheat sprouted anew, and eventually the Palestinians were able to harvest a new crop. Put this down to the occasional miracles God allows in his otherwise sorrow-stricken world.

            Though he laughs easily and often, Shehade has the usual tales of trauma to report, like the time a settler shot an old woman at Maghair al-‘Abid in her legs, and soldiers appeared but of course refused to arrest the settler and also offered no help to the woman, whose family lifted her, bleeding profusely, on to a horse and managed to get her to hospital. Anyone who knows these hills knows what kind of a ride that must have been. There are many more stories like that one, of attack and humiliation and out-and-out theft and sadistic torment, too many even for me to record and remember. Strangely, this man seems empty of bitterness. He is the south Hebron embodiment of the bon vivant, if one can use such a phrase for a man who lives so close to the ground, with so little, an unimaginably harsh life on the edge and with the settlers continually at his throat. He went to Hebron, the big city, last year, for the first time, to visit the graves of the Patriarchs, and he was moved. He says to me: “We [Palestinians and Jews] are brothers, we know this, and if anyone doubts it he has only to go to the grave of our common father Ibrahim in Hebron. I see those graves and I know: God exists.”

            After the wadi has been plowed, they drive the tractor and plow uphill, hoping to gain another small patch for the mixed barley and wheat they are sowing. First they set the thickets of thorn alight, and pungent orange flames dance over the hilltop for half an hour—this must help the plowing, though I don’t understand it, in fact I find it hard to believe that anything at all could grow on this hill of ten thousand stones. But the tractor, hovering at a dizzy angle, often resting on a single wheel, always on the verge of turning over, does manage to carve out a few furrows. It is almost midday, the sun washing over us, the voices of the plowers and sowers echoing thin and clear in the emptiness like breaking crystal, and you can see in the distance the cream-colored desert and two tents just beneath the village of Tuba and across the Jordan River an ethereal, ghostly blue line that is the mountains of Moab. Opposite Tuba, barely visible, a Palestinian flag is flying in the wind, and not far away from it two camels and a white donkey are winding their way to somewhere.

            For the record, let me say: life holds nothing like the satisfaction one feels when another field is plowed and sown by its rightful owners in the south Hebron hills. Each one is another infinitesimal victory over both resistant nature and the dependable, recurrent cruelty of human beings. Now we need to pray that the rains will come while the seeds are still potent and fertile, and that the settlers don’t spoil it all.

            It’s a kind of game we play, week after week, with the settlers and the soldiers, a harsh game with high stakes and the near certainty that we will lose. Today we won a round. There are moments when I like the odds. On the long walk down to Twaneh we notice a patch of decimated olive trees— settlers’ doing, no doubt. The trees lie helter-skelter on the earth, branches amputated, roots exposed.

            We rejoin the Ta’ayush group at Susya; they have been through a small demonstration, a response to the recent demolitions there.  Many police and soldiers arrived to play their accustomed roles; they arrested one Palestinian who tried, with doomed gallantry, to pin a Palestinian flag to one of the Border Police jeeps.  Ezra, I am told, delivered another of his “Dharma talks,” as Ada calls them, to the police officer:

Ezra: “You’re torturing these people!”

Officer: “I hope you heard that ‘click’  just now, it was my heart breaking.”

            That’s the point, that business of the frozen heart. I promised myself when I left this morning that if I were to write something about today’s adventures, it would have no trace of sentimental moralizing or bitter complaint; that the words would be sparse and sharp as thorns. But I can’t keep the promise. The sun is fast declining, the hills drowning in purple light, but still we stop to pay a visit to Daqaiqeh, buried far in the desert, an untidy cluster of corrugated shacks and a few tents and newly built outhouses and a schoolhouse, recently rebuilt after the earlier one was demolished by the army. Chickens, sheep, a donkey, a few camels. No electricity, no running water, no phones, no cell-phone connectivity, no food grown from this ground, no money, no hope. Waves of brown-beige hills, limpid desert air. Red and black and golden shirts and dresses on a laundry line, swaying in the wind. Fiercely handsome Bedouin children, including a teenage boy who has hurt his hand. Under duress, he shows it to me for a split second, enough for me to see that it is infected. I take out pads and a bandage and the disinfectant I carry for just such moments, but no matter how much I coax him to let me clean the wound, he refuses. He’s scared. I leave the disinfectant and the pads with his family, and Ezra explains to them what they have to do, when we’re gone.

            There are 74 demolition orders hanging over the shanties at Daqaiqeh—that is, over all the buildings there. Four hundred and fifty people live here, but they may soon be gone. Daqaiqeh is very close to the Green Line, and the army, or the government, or whoever makes these gratuitous decisions, wants them out of there. You have to understand just what this means. These people have land only here. Daqaiqeh, poor as it might seem, poor as it really is, is their only home. They have buried their dead in its cemetery for the last two centuries or so (the graves are the only structure in the village not yet threatened with demolition). The government intends to drive them north to Humaideh, where they are meant to manage somehow or other, though they have nothing in common with the Humaideh Bedouins, and no land. If this happens, if the Supreme Court doesn’t stop it (as it most probably won’t), it is the end of the Ka’abneh Bedouin way of life in this village—that is, for these people, the end of the world.

            And what a world it is. You may not believe me, but Daqaiqeh with its hills and sheep and camels is more beautiful, in my eyes, than Paris or St. Petersburg. It’s love at first sight. For years I have been looking for such a place. Amiel says we can ask them if they have an opening in the elementary school for an itinerant Sanskrit teacher.

            At the last moment I remember that I have a big chocolate bar in my knapsack, and I hunt for it and find it and present it to a ragamuffin boy whose eyes widen with astonishment. I tell him he’s supposed to share it with his friends (twenty or so are circling around him, watching this transaction). A foolish thought. With some effort he squeezes the whole bar into his pocket.

            Finally, we leave. Sitting in the van, Amitai says: “We’re smiling, but our heart has been slightly broken.”  Note the devastating adverb “slightly.” Of course, it’s nothing new, we’ve seen such things over and over, they’re the daily fare of the Occupation, but today I can’t help it, I’m in an altered state, heart-wracked, so I ask Sam, sitting beside me, how he understands human cruelty. I explain the question. Whoever has taken the decision to drive them out no doubt thinks it’s a good and necessary thing, even a patriotic gesture, and he won’t be present when the houses are razed and the bulldozers grind Daqaiqeh into nothingness, someone else will do the dirty work, but let’s imagine he does turn up:  I want to know how this person can, faced with his victims, inflict such pain. I truly don’t get it. I know, people do it all the time, and worse, much worse.  I, too, have plenty of rage and hatred in me, I have caused hurt in my life and will no doubt do so many times again, but I know for sure that I could never, under any conceivable circumstances, in any possible world, help destroy these people’s lives as the army is planning to do, nor could I stand by and watch. I have only myself to examine, and I don’t get it.

A discussion flowers in the bus. Would I feel the same way about evacuating settlers from their (stolen) lands? Good question. Maybe. But it’s different. They have no business being there in the first place. Maybe what we’re talking about is numbness, a common enough condition, contagious, too. I’m reading The Plague tomorrow with my honor students, and it’s as if Daqaiqeh were in the book as the book is now alive in me, and I hear Camus saying that “the habit of despair is worse than despair itself” and that “all a man could win in the conflict between plague and life was knowledge and memories” and that these might even be enough to “win the match.” By “plague” he meant something other than microbes: “All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it’s up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences.” That such  a pestilence is raging in Israel I have no doubt.  I guess that counts as knowledge. No antidote exists. And will the memories of a day like today, the little we did and all that we failed to do, along with the memory of Daqaiqeh, ever be enough?

8. Today in Palestine for December 11, 2011

Al Jazeera

December 11, 2011

The paradox of a ‘responsible’ arms maker

The negative impact of arms manufacture calls for a closer look at corporate social responsibility.

NAJ Taylor Last Modified: 09 Dec 2011

Despite being known as an aeroplane manufacturer, Boeing derives half its revenue from military contracts [EPA]

Melbourne, Australia – This is the first in a three-part essay that explores an often neglected aspect of corporate responsibility: the paradox of being a “responsible” arms maker. The author argues that the “negative externalities” – or the impact on society – inherent in the deployment and threat of the use of weapons makes the standard of corporate responsibility difficult to apply. Instead, the author argue, those interested in corporate behaviour should view such firms through a “corporate social irresponsibility” lens, a strategy that identifies and allows a response to be made to normative developments, through proactive engagement and divestment strategies.

In this chapter, the author introduces the concept of corporate social irresponsibility. The next chapter will examine the current limits of the responsibility of arms makers, before the problem of institutional investment in cluster munitions producers is addressed in Part Three.

“War, mechanisation, mining and finance played into each other’s hands. Mining was the key industry that furnished the sinews of war and increased the metallic contents of the original capital hoard, the war chest; on the other hand, it furthered the industrialisation of arms, and enriched the financier by both processes. The uncertainty of both warfare and mining increased the possibilities for speculative gains: this provided a rich broth for the bacteria of finance to thrive on.”

Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization, 1934

Proponents of the social responsibility of business and investment have seldom assessed the makers of conventional armaments such as machine guns, attack helicopters and battle tanks. Fewer still have attempted to devise and implement such programmes within firms, even though a growing number of civil society groups have begun to identify the entities involved – both directly and indirectly – in the development, production and investment of “controversial” weapons such as landmines and cluster bombs.

The prevailing argument is that arms makers and producers, as well as their financers, are not capable of being socially responsible due to three unique characteristics. First, the producers of arms are commonly viewed as agents of the state due to their importance in maintaining national sovereignty – rather than independent actors liable for the harm resulting from their products. Second, there is a belief that the manufacture of arms necessitates a higher degree of opaqueness than other industry groups, due to national defence considerations. Third, the state plays a dual – and sometimes conflicting – role as both the principal customer and regulator.

These three characteristics aside, I argue that the emerging concept of corporate social irresponsibility (CSI) proves far more useful in assessing arms makers’ limits of responsibility. By focusing on the negative externalities, we can examine the practice in the context of constitutive and regulatory norms, as opposed to those norms that are either moral or practical. Put another way, CSI effectively confines analysis to a relatively precise set of considerations, while a more traditional corporate social responsibility (CSR) approach requires choosing from a host of potential implementation strategies and activities. Thus, CSI provides a degree of specificity not offered by the more nebulous concept of CSR and actually complements existing CSR programmes and activities.

By arguing in favour of CSI’s value to institutional investors, I will address a seemingly large paradox: Can arms makers be socially responsible? This essay takes a small step towards answering that question, by examining the investment policies, practices and procedures of a handful of Australian pension and sovereign wealth funds in relation to investment in the development and production of cluster munitions – a class of weapon banned under international law since August 2010. The case selection is especially significant as the international Cluster Munitions Convention is the most ambitious disarmament and humanitarian treaty of the last ten years, and the Australian investment industry – with A$4tn ($4.0tn) in assets – is the fourth largest in the world.

Although no Australian firm is in the top 100 manufacturers of conventional weapons globally, Australian banking and financial institutions are among the largest investors in similar companies overseas. By focusing on the Australian experience, this chapter explores the “dilemma” institutional investors face when the positions of domestic governments do not explicitly prohibit direct and indirect investment as has happened in other markets, such as in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland, Lebanon, Mexico, Norway and Rwanda.

Drawing on theoretical discussions in international relations and critical studies of corporate social responsibility, I find that the negative externalities inherent in armaments manufacturing demand that institutional investors view such firms through a “CSI lens”, especially when tasked with identifying and developing strategies to account for emerging social norms.

Characteristics of the armaments industry

The phrase “armaments industry” is a misnomer: It is not a distinct industrial sector, but rather a loose collection of firms operating in a number of disparate industry and sub-industry groups including aerospace and defence, electronics, semiconductors, information technology and shipbuilding. Very few companies operate solely for military purposes; they either derive a significant proportion of their revenue from civilian goods or producing “dual-use” components with both military and civilian applications.

Despite widespread arguments to the contrary, the marriage of the military and industry has been, in fact, an observed phenomena since 1897, when founder of the modern human rights movement, Jean Henri Dunant, predicted:

“Everything that makes up the pride of our civilisation will be at the service of war. Your electric railroads, your dirigibles, your submarines… telephones… and so many other wonderful inventions, will perform splendid service for war.”

“The US has not published a single document on its development and production of conventional armaments.”

Today there are thousands of companies that may be classified as belonging to “armaments industry”, albeit to varying degrees and in a number of different ways. For example, Boeing is widely known as a manufacturer of commercial aircraft. However, the firm also derives around half of its A$60bn ($60.8bn) revenue from military contracts. These businesses are often structured so that individual firm’s suppliers, operations and functions are located in different states. As a result, it remains especially difficult for investors to identify and implement policies that require the targeting – either through exclusion or engagement – of specific stocks or sectors, as is usually done in responsible business and investment programs.

A number of national governments have begun disclosing high-level information on their domestic activity in this area. However, significant gaps in publicly available information remain. For instance, the US has not published a single document on its development and production of conventional armaments, despite having the highest level of government expenditure, the greatest volume and value of exports, and the largest number of private companies in the world. Instead, they have made some basic information about the scale and scope of the arms production available along with that of other major sectors in the Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress.

Disclosure is slightly more forthcoming in parts of Europe, with the British and French publishing comprehensive stand-alone financial and employment data from 1992 and 1997 respectively. In the absence of regular reporting cycles, prior to a review of defence procurement in 2010, the Australian government most recently commissioned a survey of domestic activity in the mid-1990s as part of a broader strategic review.

In response, civil society groups and scholars have increasingly called for greater governmental and inter-governmental transparency through voluntary reporting instruments such as the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI), Arms Industry Database, or the UN Register of Conventional Arms. However, the information contained in these databases is incomplete and unverified; the responsibility of arms markers still must overcome a high degree of complexity and opaqueness when assessing the limits of responsibility of arms makers.

NAJ Taylor is a doctoral candidate in the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland, and author of This Blog Harms.

Follow NAJ Taylor on Twitter: @najtaylor

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

One thought on “Dorothy Online Newsletter

  1. In Obama’s eye ‘Has your back’ means I prod you to do something I don’t want to catch hell for so you do. And when that’s over I chime in with the condemnations, but trust me I don’t mean anything I say and if there are some sanctions they’ll be brief.

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